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Thursday, January 24, 2008

John Edwards' Last Chance at Relevance

On Tuesday Fred Thompson dropped out. He did so without endorsing a fellow Republican candidate, not that it would have mattered. Almost all Thompson supporters had already found a new candidate. Imagine if Thompson had exited the race after his disappointing Iowa and New Hampshire finishes, when his polling numbers were still high in parts of the country. Back then, a Thompson endorsement would have meant the world to any candidate, who would greatly benefit from Thompson's verbal support in the Deep South and Midwest. Yet, with Thompson steady decline and feeble exit, he has no impact on his party's primary.

John Edwards is destined to share a similar fate. That is, unless, he drops out by February 5th.

It's disappointing that Edwards hasn't had a better showing in these primaries. The Democratic Party and the democratic process would have benefited from a third viable candidate. Indeed he was viable, up until the Iowa Caucus results were clear. Several times throughout 2007, I wrote that he had a great chance to win the nomination if he won Iowa, but nothing less than a win was acceptable.

After his second place finish there, the writing was on the wall. If he couldn't finish first Iowa, he couldn't finish first anywhere. Proving this, he has since placed in a distant third in New Hampshire (39-37-17) and an extremely distant third in labor-rich Nevada (4%?!), where he had previously polled well.

With these losses, Edwards continues to slip nationally. He continues to lose influence. If he is truly serious about change in Washington, he has a decision to make. Does he fight against the status quo of dynastical might (Clinton), or does he fight against the Democrat who does not support true universal health care (Obama)? He's tried both, but if he continues, he will have zero impact.

Most think Edwards would endorse Obama over Clinton. I agree. However, as I've written about this week, the Democratic Primary is careening towards a Clinton nomination. If Edwards wants to stop it, he needs to drop out, point to Obama, and say "This is our guy." The amalgam of Edwards and Obama supporters would be enough to stop Clinton.

It is worth mentioning that this cannot wait until March or April. It cannot even wait for February 6th, the day after Super Tuesday, when the Edwards campaign truly dies. If Edwards waits that long, his national support will be in the high single digits, and his endorsement will mean less. Moreover, by then Clinton's lead may seem insurmountable, as she will put some distance between herself and Obama on the fifth, while half of the states have already voted.

What's most tragic about this entire story is that this may very well be the end of Edwards' career in public politics, and while short, it's been impressive. He used one Senate term to be a contender in two national elections, he became a national figure - a powerful, tell-it-like-it-is speaker - who is greatly respected by the Democratic Party, liberals, and all geographical regions. Respect, however, did not translate into votes. He can probably become a poor man's Al Gore, fighting poverty and racial discrimination from the private sector, so it's not as if he'll retire. However, the list of guys who run for President twice and fail twice is long, while the guys who try a third time with any viability has two names on this list: William Jennings Bryan (1908) and Bob Dole (1996), neither of whom were close to being a favorite to be sworn in on inauguration day.

So this is John Edwards' last chance at relevance in presidential politics, and ironically, to achieve relevance, he must drop out. Then, he must support the candidate of his choice and bring his still sizeable voting constituency with him.

Otherwise, he will suffer the same feeble fate of Fred Thompson.

2 comments:

Jeramey said...

I'm not a fan of people dropping out just because they cannot win. Why not just stand up for something until the end?

Of course, I'm a Ron Paul supporter, so I might be a little bias.

The Dude said...

Solid use of the term "careening".


Can John Edwards be considered the first white man in history to find himself wondering what life would be like if he was actually a middle age woman or a black man right now? Karma just has it in for John Edwards...

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